Afghanistan — Cavalry soldiers protect engineers building new Helmand road

Cav­al­ry sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards have been pro­tect­ing British engi­neers and Afghan con­trac­tors as, over recent weeks, they have come under dai­ly attacks while build­ing a new road in Hel­mand.

A Royal Dragoon Guards Viking all-terrain vehicle and a soldier from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards move in to assist colleagues who have come under contact during the construction of Route Trident
A Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking all-ter­rain vehi­cle and a sol­dier from the 1st Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards move in to assist col­leagues who have come under con­tact dur­ing the con­struc­tion of Route Tri­dent
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Once com­plet­ed, Route Tri­dent in south­ern Nahr‑e Saraj will link the Hel­mand provin­cial cap­i­tal Lashkar Gah with the eco­nom­ic hub of Gereshk, pro­vid­ing a safe and durable tran­sit route for the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion and ISAF forces across the province. 

Sol­diers from 1 Troop, 1st Armoured Engi­neer Squadron, from Ripon, North York­shire, and Afghan con­trac­tors are build­ing the road and over the last few months insur­gents have tried to pre­vent progress. 

The engi­neers and their Afghan col­leagues have come under dai­ly attacks as well as hav­ing to cope with impro­vised explo­sive device (IED) strikes around the build. 

With the help of The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards though the attacks are being rebutted and steady progress on the road build con­tin­ues to be made. 

The Cav­al­ry sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards are work­ing as the Viking Group in Hel­mand which has been pro­vid­ing over­watch and pro­tec­tion for the road build. 

See Relat­ed Links to watch video footage of sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards’ Viking Group and Roy­al Engi­neers work­ing on Route Tri­dent in Hel­mand province. 

Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Edward Bark­er, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing the Viking Group, commented: 

“We’re work­ing in close con­junc­tion with the engi­neers, who are them­selves super­vis­ing local civil­ian con­trac­tors — the idea being that it is their road and we want them to build it as much as possible. 

Viking vehicles from The Royal Dragoon Guards Viking Group provide security for Royal Engineers and Afghan civilian contractors constructing Route Trident
Viking vehi­cles from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking Group pro­vide secu­ri­ty for Roy­al Engi­neers and Afghan civil­ian con­trac­tors con­struct­ing Route Tri­dent
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“We’re there to pro­vide the pro­tec­tion for that, whether that involves very close pro­tec­tion, by sim­ply pro­vid­ing an armoured sand­bag, or mov­ing into posi­tions to pre­vent the engi­neers from being fired upon by insurgents.” 

The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking Group con­sists of the Cat­t­er­ick-based sol­diers from 1st Troop, D ‘The Green Horse’ Squadron, oper­at­ing out of Viking armoured vehi­cles. The agili­ty and manoeu­vra­bil­i­ty of the tracked vehi­cle, com­bined with its mount­ed fire pow­er from a 0.50-calibre heavy machine gun or the gen­er­al pur­pose machine gun, makes Viking the per­fect vehi­cle to pro­vide force pro­tec­tion for the engi­neers work­ing on the road construction. 

Cor­po­ral Adam Smith, Viking Group, Roy­al Dra­goon Guards, said: 

“We move into posi­tions that pro­vide a pro­tec­tive block and also clear the route in front of the engi­neers from any IEDs. 

“Most of the time, because we’re in armoured vehi­cles, we’ll sit there and take the shots because it is not doing any­thing to us, but as [the incom­ing rounds] get clos­er and clos­er to the engi­neer teams on the ground, we’ve got busier. 

“We’ve returned fire with some heavy weapons recent­ly, esca­lat­ing our response as required, but with one eye clear­ly on the local nation­als. This has sent the mes­sage that we’re not here to mess about.” 

The road is being con­struct­ed in lay­ers by the engi­neers, with the upper­most sur­face being topped with aggre­gate and stones. 

A sniper from the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force engages insurgents from the back of a Viking vehicle
A sniper from the Counter-Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Task Force engages insur­gents from the back of a Viking vehi­cle
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The Viking vehi­cles pro­vide a mov­able ‘ring of steel’ around the engi­neers, allow­ing them to car­ry out con­struc­tion and move for­ward as progress is made. 

Cor­po­ral Dar­ran Moun­sey, who serves with 21 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment, said: 

“The basis of the build itself is a thing called Neoweb, which goes on the ground and is then filled to form a rigid struc­ture for the road so when the win­ter does come in it does­n’t wash away. A neo-grid then goes on top, so it forms a hard­ened road when it is topped. 

“The lads are over­see­ing the local con­tac­tors, but they also have work to do them­selves, phys­i­cal work — the set­ting out of the road, the stitch­ing and plac­ing of the neo-grid itself and quite a lot of shovelling.” 

Despite insur­gent activ­i­ty, the route build con­tin­ues to gain ground. Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Bark­er explained: 

“I think the project is actu­al­ly going very well. The intel­li­gence we have sug­gests that stop­ping the Route Tri­dent build is the insur­gents’ main effort in this area and that’s not some­thing they have been able to do. 

“We have the armoured capac­i­ty to pro­tect [the engi­neers] at close quar­ters, but also the manoeu­vra­bil­i­ty to push out into depth and real­ly take the fight to the enemy.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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